Something of a high-end publishing boom has been happening over the last few years in the once-upon-a-time humble world of the comic book. This most popular branch of the visual and storytelling arts has never been stronger, and these oversize facsimile artist’s edition from publisher IDW feed an instatiable appetite for material that complements the everyday experience.
These impressive volumes all go back to the original black and white panels created by the artists prior to colouring (complete with editorial notes and marks), in order to demonstrate the astonishing sophistication of the drawing and graphic storytelling techniques that lie at the heart of every great comic book.
David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil : Born again: story and art by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli (Artist’s Edition)
Daredevil was created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett for Marvel comics in 1964, a blind lawyer who uses his heightened senses and superb physical strength to fight crime and injustice in his hometown of Hell’s Kitchen in New York City. Frank Miller, considered one of the greatest artists/writers of contemporary comic books, worked on Daredevil in the early 1980s and returned to the character to craft this Born Again story arc, alongside artist David Mazzucchelli. Miller’s often terse style and bleak outlook are mirrored by Mazzuchelli’s straightforward, sometimes sparse visual style.
As he himself notes in the introduction: “Frank wanted to tell a harrowing, often dark tale, with redemption its goal, and he pushed me to find ways of expressing the emotional upheavals unfolding page by page, to burn through styles and approaches that matched the changing moods – in other words, to do the primary job of a storyteller: make the reader feel what the characters are feeling.”
Jack Kirby, aka. “King of Comics”, holds a special place in the pantheon of comic book artists, co-creator of characters such as Captain America, The Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, The Avengers, Ant-Man, The X Men, etc., etc., the list goes on. His hyper-muscular, bombastic and highly decorative style of drawing virtually defined an entire era of superhero comic book art, straddling both the golden and silver ages, and making him one of the most respected practitioners in his own lifetime.
Whilst most closely associated with Stan Lee and the Marvel stable, he worked across most of the major comic book companies throughout his life, including DC for whom he created Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth, set in a post apocalyptic world where intelligent animals rule over a debased and feral human population.
Will Eisner is held in similarly high regard as Jack Kirby, credited as one of the creators of the American graphic novel and creator in 1940 of The Spirit, a newspaper comic strip based around the exploits of a somewhat shambolic masked private detective who helps the police in their fight against gangsters and the criminal mastermind known as The Octopus. Deliberately avoiding the tropes of the typical superhero character of the time, the Spirit is most definitely a flawed “regular Joe”, complete with relationship problems and quirky sense of humour; he isn’t always on the right end of a gun barrel or bunched fist either.
Eisner’s beautiful drawing with its fluid lines and noirish style was highly influential at a time when popular film and fiction was awash with dark shadows and a slanted view of the everyday, and his at times startling composition and narrative technique are shown to beautiful effect here.
Spiderman is arguably the most famous and iconic character in the Marvel comic book universe, comparable to DC’s Superman and Batman, although considerably “younger” than either of those two titans. Created by writer/publisher Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko in 1962, Peter Parker (aka. Spiderman) is an orphaned high school student living with his aunt and uncle and struggling with all of the standard anxieties and stresses one associates with adolesence.
Receiving a bite from a radioactive spider whilst visiting a science exhibit, he discovers a whole range of new abilities coupled with greatly increased strength, all of which prove to be both a blessing and a curse as he comes to grips with his transformed life. Since 1962 Spiderman has been in the hands of some of Marvel’s most important artists and writers, including John Romita, Todd McFarlane, John Byrne and Gil Kane whose dynamic work can be seen in this volume.
A terrific short documentary with Stan lee and others discussing the creation of Daredevil, and the mechanics of getting a comic book character just right.